An episode of the BBC’s Hardtalk programme (shown 15th August—I’ve only just caught up with it) has caused a bit of a stir, as well it might since the subject was climate change and the guest was Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion. His uncompromising defence of civil disobedience rather unsettled the host Stephen Sackler. What has sparked something of a debate in climate change circles is Hallam’s statement that six billion people are doomed. A sober assessment of this claim can be found here. Putting a figure on what climate change will do to the size of the global population is bound to be fraught with difficulty. But where I think Hallam was spot on was him saying that compared to the disruption Extinction Rebellion might cause, the civil disruption that will follow in the footsteps of one climate catastrophe after another will be a thousand times worse. And the trouble with that is that we don’t know quite when it will begin to hurt. Hallam pointed to the likely starvation that will spark a response which no government will be prepared for.
The problem with the climate change narrative, which is changing far too slowly is that it has been framed in the context of what the world might be like in 2100—almost as if nothing will happen between now and then. But if six billion were to die ‘by 2100’ it stands to reason that some will have already been struck down by the impact of climate change. I think this is indubitably the case, but of course nobody wants to say it’s definitively the case just yet lest they be seen as alarmist. Hallam is quite prepared to be alarmist and I wish him the best of luck.
It is now ten years since my book Too Little, Too Late: the politics of climate change was published. I have taken a quick dip into it, and I can only observe that if the politics have changed since 2009, it’s for the worse. Carbon emissions have risen dramatically since then. Fossil fuel subsidies have risen massively since then. The elites, as Hallam repeatedly refers to the enemies of action, continue to lie—or deny. Sackler suggested to Hallam that he was a revolutionary, as if perhaps this was just another iteration an of anti-capitalist movement. The point to remember is that revolutionaries don’t start revolutions: circumstances do. A lesson Lenin may have learned when he dashed to Russia after his longed-for revolution had already begun.